Friday, May 4 – Any outing with Dahlia Harris always has some real “punch” to it and this sit down was no different. Since my last blog on Dahlia, she has taken on a few projects whether by design or by association.
She and her team hosted another round of successful Women in Theatre Festival. The Festival was held in three parts. The one-week event looked at showcases, panel discussion and tributes. The Festival also zoomed in on the key roles of actors, writers and directors. The partnerships with the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts and JAMPRO were important. The presenters were wide range and the workshop sessions were educational, informative and riveting. That said, Ms Harris rolled right up into the Miss Jamaica World Project and the Pap Smear Lyme. In between that she continued to write, direct, present and volunteer for several activities across the island.
Dahlia sat down with me and we had a chat about her last six months, and what’s to come.
What has been the reaction to Dat a Gwan Jamaica Remix?
It has been amazing. We have had patrons coming to see the show four and five times and still belting out laughter with every scene. The response has also been obvious through the comments and posts via social media. When patrons connect with the show so much that they take the experience home it says a lot about the production.
Some other projects you have been mulling over…want to share what we will see from you in another year?
Definitely more projects for television and I attempt a feature film. The scripts are ready and waiting, I’m still working on funding. It’s easier to get overseas investment in Brand Jamaica where creative projects are concerned but then you are boxed into providing what they want. It’s taking a while for our local investors and companies to believe in the power of what we have to offer, but hopefully they will get there.
You have recently done two major programs – the Pap Smear Lyme and the MJW board/team – describe the passion you have for programs of this kind
Well I have a passion for all things that will empower women and children. Just sitting in that interview with the Jamaica Cancer Society and really appreciating the gravity of the situation, I knew I had to contribute in some way. An estimated 200 women die from Cervical Cancer in Jamaica each year. That’s mind blowing. Having done the #PapSmearLyme I am even more committed to the effort. The call was for 50 women. Close to 3 times that number showed up before we had even reached half of the time scheduled for the event. Many of them participated because access to the test was made possible through NCB Insurance and the generous spirit of a few Jamaicans. I want to keep the women coming in for tests. Who knows how many lives we will save?
As it relates to MJW, I am very excited to be on the planning team. Jamaica has some of the most beautiful women in the world but we also have some of the most benevolent and altruistic women that I have ever met. The renewed focus on Beauty with a Purpose means we can highlight those women who have been making a difference in their communities. That’s a major part of Brand Jamaica…service to our fellow citizen…that’s what we want to showcase to the world. The global crown will allow us to do that. We are aiming to take it home.
Come May, you will have something new out, tell us about this – Case of the EX
It’s a relationship comedy that deals with the hot topic of how you cope with exes. It is really a sensitive issue. Jealousy for your girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s ex can easily turn into suspicion and doubt, but in some cases are these emotions justified? When faced with your partners ex, what do you do!
Case of the EX is centered around DJ Cheetah (Kadeem Wilson), a young reggae producer struggling to reclaim his popularity in the music industry. His latest love Dymond (Alexandria Gregory), has her sights set on becoming a global star, but Cheetah keeps ignoring her talent and her love for him prevents her from cutting ties and moving on. When a local station launches a lucrative national song competition, Cheetah seizes the opportunity to bring in his ex, DJ Cyattie (Dahlia Harris), to help him win that big ‘buss’. However, Cyattie has other objectives; she wants to move from Cheetah’s past into his present and has no qualms about getting rid of Dymond. With just one night to make a major hit, things get very heated in the recording studio. When the sun comes out, someone will wear the title of EX …let the games begin.
It’s a delightful story and I am happy to be working again with screen and stage actor Kadeem Wilson who is still thrilling audiences in Dat A Gwaan Jamaica:Remix. I am also happy to introduce Alexandra Gregory to a wider commercial theatre audience. Some would have seen her featured as the school girl in Television Jamaica’s “Inna De Bus”, and she brings a wealth of talent and experience to the show.
You have worked with a number of young people over the last year, what are you most proud of?
I am proudest when I see the accomplishments that they have made and how mature they are about their careers in the creative industry. They strategically plan for where they want to go, they put in the work, and they rebound from their challenges. They are inspiring to watch. I don’t necessarily want to name anyone in particular because I don’t want them to feel like any accomplishment has greater value than the other and there are a lot of young people I could name LOL! I am just heartened that they are not only talking about success, they are doing what it takes to get there.
What else are you working on to ensure your expertise is passed on to the next generation?
All my productions are basically managed by young people. They do the administrative work, they are a major part of production work, and I rotate them on stage as actors. This way they have an understanding of how all aspects of the business operates. I have been working on a project that will extend to communities across the island but until I have everything in place I don’t want to say too much about that. That project will however not just be about honing performers; it will pay equal attention to technical and production capacity building. We can’t progress as an industry if the sum of the parts isn’t all functioning at the same level.
TV is always a great fit for you be it Sport, News or Entertainment, how do you maintain that drive to keep at it?
The viewers. What we do means so much to them that I consider it a privilege to be able to impact lives in this way. Whether it’s sharing information that will improve their lives, or just providing light moments to brighten their day…it really makes a difference to someone and I take that seriously. I think the diversity also helps; being able to host various events and interact with people who are dissimilar yet alike in so many ways keeps the work interesting. Top that all with the fact that I am a entertainment and Sport fan…I’m doing what I love and I am grateful!
Offer some advice to a school leaver who has interest in the business of music/theatre/film as this seems to be a growing option for some.
Respect the business. That means getting the necessary skills and knowledge required to make it work. This holds true at any aspect of the business. If you’re talent, do what it takes to get your skills up to a level that makes you marketable. If you are production, understand the industry. Read as much as you can, enroll in workshops; observe others who have been successful. I’m not suggesting that you duplicate all that you see; I’m saying understanding what works and what doesn’t will help you as you forge your own path. Too many believe that creative business is easy. If you fail to respect the business, it won’t respect you.
Until next time, #OneLove